underwater baby

I love photos taken from half in, half out of the water. That in between world where nobody knows what to breathe in and the laws of gravity are turned upside down. I have always been a water baby. As a child I spent more of the summer in the water than out. My sister Grace and I would spend entire days in the pool, from sun up to long past sun down. Only when our mother enforced it would we finally get out of the water, only to quickly wolf our lunch down standing up, dripping all over the balcony. Then, when the last crumb was licked from the sandwich, we would hurl ourselves back into the blue water, delighting in the feel of its cool wetness swallowing at our skin to welcome us back.

It was another world down there, one that I loved, one I felt so at home in. I know every curve and dip of that pool as well as I know my own body. It amazes me now how small it is, how I can stand up in every part, even the deepest point.

We used to practice holding our breath, lying weightless just beneath the surface. That feeling is one of my favourite in the world. It is as though all sound is gone, quiet, yet somehow amplified, reverberating through the metres of dense, clear weight. I can hear my thoughts under there, hear my lungs steadily holding on to their last breath.

The beach is somewhat the same, although the water is more alive. There, when I lie breathlessly beneath the surface my body moves with the ocean, the swell undulating with me. I float easily in the salt, and the waves are white as they break, rolling just above me.

When I come up for breath I break through the barrier with a crash, and all the noise comes flooding in. Seagulls and the surf, sounds of people calling to each other batter my ears, the blinding sun squints my eyes. I take a salty gulp of air, enough to last me a few more moments, and dive back under. Everything is cut off once more. The world is green and mottled down here, compared to the blinding blue of the world above. The sunlight is dappled, falling through the ever-moving water to reach the sand below. It is two metres of paradise, gravity free and clear, the edges of sight blurring into a blue green haze. I lift my eyes and look through the water, up to the sky outside. There is a foot or so of sea between my face and the surface, the light shimmers and reflects down, tricking my vision, so that I can’t quite see what lies up there.

That layer divides these two worlds, one where everything is touched, in tune, completely immersed in something so much denser than air or wind. The other, all is dry and separate, where things exist in complete solitude. Every part of my body is touched by the water, every hair on my head surrounded by its unwavering wet. I wish to stay down here, but my traitorous lungs lift me up every time, the thin bones of my ribcage and the meagre weight of my body not enough to separate the air within them from uniting back with its great body above.

I must be content, grateful for those short visits to that other world underneath, hidden under the innocently still barrier of the vast surface.


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